Categories
Child Care Dads Flexible Careers Flexible Industries Lifestyle And Wellbeing Mental Health Mums Returning To Work Parenting and Work Productivity & Flexibility Work Journeys

Working in a Post-Covid World.

March 23rd 2020. The day we heard our Prime Minister say “From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home”. The day working from home, indefinitely, began.

Fast-forward over 13 months. Many are still working full-time from home. Some are gradually finding their way back to the office. There are organisations that have managed things brilliantly and seen this as an opportunity to shape flexible working. Some have managed things terribly and are already making unnecessary demands to fully return to the office, with no clear business need. Some employees are desperate to get back, some are desperate to retain the flex they have had forced upon them.

As we emerge from these unprecedented times, the waters feel muddy. There is little consistency across employers or industries. What is clear is that many of us are feeling the burn out from living at work with little to no break and a year of no holidays.

So how are we planning for the post-Covid future?

Many organisations have hit the press for their positive moves towards supporting employees well-being and flexibility. For example, Dropbox have made working from home a permanent move. Microsoft is moving to a 50:50 homeworking to office working model. John Lewis head office is taking a hybrid or blended working approach. Having spoken to a wide range of parents, the general consensus seems to be a 50% office based role will become the norm.

These approaches make total sense given a study by The University Of Southampton found nine in ten employees feel they had got at least as much, if not more, work done at home as in the office. Employees also shared that they have benefited from the flexibility to organise their tasks and discretion to make decisions about when they do their work from home.

How this effects parents?

Whilst it is clear from this study and many others – such as the research conducted by the childcare provider, Bright Horizons – working parents are overwhelmingly in favour of a continuation of flexible hours and some form of hybrid working. Christelle who works for a large energy company shared:

Having the flexibility to do the school run and eat together at the start and end of the day as a family, has had a huge positive impact on our family dynamic”.

Likewise John, who works for an IT company said:

The time I have had to become more involved in my son’s life has been amazing. If allowed to continue, I believe this will have a life-long impact to our relationship, having been around so much in his formative years”.

It is also clear the general consensus is that the pandemic has allowed us to prove such a model could work. However, more than half of employees involved in the Bright Horizons research thought their employers were likely to be unresponsive to demands for greater flexibility once the pandemic dissipates. Denise Priest of Bright Horizons shared “There seems to be disagreement between some organisations and their workers about what normality should mean”. This is backed up by the research I conducted. A mum working for a large US Bio-sciences organisation is shared her worries that, “whilst all the right things are being done now, will these have the longevity that society needs?”

So what is the right answer?

The only very clear thing in all of this is one size does not fit all. We knew this anyway, but employees, pre-covid, bent over backwards in many case to mould themselves, their families and other commitments to fit the requirements of work. Whilst we have been missing social contact, there is a clear preference amongst the majority of parents to combine office with working from home in the future. Seven in ten (73%) employees wish to adopt a hybrid work arrangement – blending working from home with the communality of the office – and to retain the flexibility and control over their working pattern from which they have benefited under lockdown.

I am hearing of a huge amount of examples of organisations asking their employees what works for them? One FMCG company has even gone as far as introducing a whole new contractual way of working. Allowing some individuals to work on a retained project basis. They are then able to dictate their working hours – fitting work to their lives, rather than fitting life to their work.

All this said, there are some that working from home is not good for. I say “not good for” because I don’t just mean convenience. I mean their mental health is suffering because of the isolation this can bring. If you are younger, live alone or in a shared house environment. If you wish to reap the social rewards of the young, working generation. Many of these people NEED the office environment in order to protect their mental health. This sentiment was clearly shared by one person I spoke with from the Oil & Gas industry, who said:

I have genuine concerns for a single, female colleague who has clearly struggled mentally with the stay at home message”.

Flexible Working is the way forward.

It truly feels the power is shifting. People have proven a flexible model to suit individuals – IS achievable. There are organisations taking this on board and adapt to their staff. Allowing work to fit with life, rather than forcing employees into an unmanageable, unsustainable, unnecessary, unhealthy work pattern. These organisations will be the winners in the long run.

The 2021 Modern Families Index Spotlight points to potential discord ahead. 55% of respondents indicate their loyalty to their employer long term depends on employer’s reaction to the pandemic and beyond. As they continue to attempt to juggle work, child care and care of elderly relatives. Employers who recognise the priority of family life and provided practical support for staff will retain – and gain – talented employees. While those who have not will lose out. John, who I mentioned earlier, working in IT, very honestly shared this with me:

I will seek alternative employment if pushed too far to revert to old ways of working. It is clear this is a preference, but with no clear justification, in my organisation. Which could result in me seeking alternative employment”.

What about well-being support?

It seems many organisations are focusing on what the working week should look like. However, what hasn’t been shared as broadly is what organisations are doing to support the mental well-being of employees.

The University of Southampton Study shared that maintaining working from home during the pandemic, whilst may have been in some ways more efficient, has taken its toll on mental health and well-being. In fact, responses on this area in their study found ranking very low. 47 out of 100 – measured against the World Health Organisation WHO-5 global standard. AXA back this up further. Finding that two-thirds (64%) of those working across the UK and Europe said their stress levels increased compared to pre-pandemic. Of these, eight out of ten (81%) describe themselves as having a “poor” or “low” state of mind.

Given for many the kitchen table has become the office with home / work boundaries becoming uncontrollably blurred. It stands to reason that burnout is a very real prospect.

What are the effects of this?

On the flip side, organisations are planning for future and maybe even dictate what this future will look like. Although it may be that some do not feel ready to commute or be in the office. A mum working for a small start up shared with me:

I am not prepared to return until I am vaccinated. This has already happened for my boss so we are at slight odds around timing. Which is causing a bit of of stress and anxiety”.

Some have been shielding, may have vulnerable family members. Many have adapt childcare provisions and may not easily be able to reinstate wrap around care. Either because it is not available or because they are not inclined to revert back to the old ways. Such as running from breakfast club, to the train, to work, to after school clubs. And various other activities without having a minute for any family member to breathe.

As a backdrop the pandemic has triggered significant emotional, physical, and economic burdens:

  • Social isolation,
  • Working from home while caring for children and other family members
  • Exposure to the virus – personally, via loved ones, or from working on the front line
  • Experiences of long-covid

Mental health care advocates believe Covid can cause many to suffer from something close to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

In August 2020 the CDC published results of a large US web-based survey of more than 5000 adults. In which over 40% demonstrated experiencing at least one adverse mental or behavioural health problem related to the pandemic. Including symptoms of anxiety or depression (30.9%), substance use to cope (13.3%) and considering suicide (10.7%). This suggests a flexible work environment is something employers must consider when working in a post-covid world.

What needs to be done?

Many parents have shared a number of initiatives their organisations are doing to support well-being. These include

  • virtual coffee chat drop-ins
  • no-meeting days
  • access to counselling
  • well-being allowances
  • access to the office for those struggling working from home

but is this enough?

Workers have proved they are highly adaptable in these unusual times. One senior music industry employee shared, the pandemic has propelled flexible working forward by ten years, if done right. However, employers’ focus must now be on well-being. On supporting people through this next phase of transition. Above all else it is our well-being and mental health that has suffered most. I wonder how well organisations will take account of this as a factor of our return? This is a whole new phase. A positive shift hopefully, but one that needs managing with great care and support.

For other insights into this subject, why not have a read on The Real Gender Impact of Covid-19. And the struggles women have faced during and potentially post-covid.

Categories
Mums Returning To Work

THE MUMMY of mummyjobs is very, very, tired.

THE MUMMY of mummyjobs has spent nearly every night of the last 2 weeks on the phone to the GoDaddy web development team in Arizona. This time it’s because she has accidentally deleted half of the Home Page (F.M.L.) and at 2am, CANNOT be arsed to try and fanny around figuring out how to get it back.

THE MUMMY of mummyjobs is aware that she has a very tricky 6am meeting with her 2 daughters in the morning that she will definitely NOT be allowed to call in sick for, or cancel and that the 3rd glass of Malbec in her hand was probably not the best idea she’s had this evening.

The clock is ticking past 2.30am… THE MUMMY of mummyjobs is now very tired (and a little tipsy), ‘GoDaddy Arizona’ has finally informed her how to fix her erroneous deletion of half the Home Page, but THE MUMMY of mummyjobs is still not able to rest.

No.

THE MUMMY of mummyjobs has been asked by her PR agency, Harvey & Hugo, to write a Blog about why she wanted to make the Mummyjobs.co.uk community site in the first place?

THE MUMMY of mummyjobs is currently so tired, that she cannot remember why she thought starting her own business would be a good idea and is not at all pleased that she cannot get out of writing the blog, she can’t, she was supposed to write said blog, 2 weeks ago…

So THE MUMMY of mummyjobs wrote;

“Hi.

My name is Cheney Hamilton and I’m a border line Alcoholic (that’s a joke, although I do enjoy the occasional bottle of wine!), as well as THE MUMMY of mummyjobs.co.uk

I am currently serving my second sentence of maternity leave (I’m 7 months in) and somewhat surprisingly I have grown very fond of my inmates. They are fast becoming my best friends and keep me constantly entertained.

My first sentence was spent longing for my adult counterparts and a life outside the front door; amazing how a little thing like a child born with hip dysplasia can so easily and fundamentally rock your world – The short story?  My Bea was trussed up in a Pavlik Harness at 6 weeks, Frog Cast at 8 weeks, all clear at 4 months, relapse at 6 months, surgery at 10 months, full body Hip Spica until she was 13 months old; which at least allowed us to have an Happy effing 2nd Christmas, thank you very much.  The long story was filled with tears, trauma and a profound wonder at how resilient that this little life which we had brought into the world, could be. (If you’re interested, or anyone out there is going through this – please do get in touch – I’ll give you the long story with a happy ending!)

Anyway, as you might imagine, I went running back to work after 5 months – thank the Lord for the MP who allowed parents to split maternity leave, thank him even more for my more than willing husband!

Back to my second sentence and I can honestly say that I had every intention of going back to my career. My employer was great with everything I went through with Bea, I really couldn’t have asked for more than the understanding and support I received. But this time something felt different…

It’s true that I still miss adult interaction and the buzz of being on a sales floor, but there is something deeply gratifying in spending the days with my children and watching them grow. Wondering where they learnt that funny phrase, or marvelling at how quickly they grasped the concept of things that we as adults would take an age to learn.

So I started to map out how I could make it work; be home with the kids, but still have a career and bring home the bacon.  For me it was simple. I took something that I was good at and merged it with the one thing I will always need help and support with. Digital Sales & Motherhood – I will let you decide which is which! So mummyjobs.co.uk was born – and Not to get mums a job, as one might think from its name; but to be a tool, a confidant, a support and hopefully a friend who helps mums get on with the job of being a mum, in whatever form she needs it.

So that’s what I did and why I did it.

I’m happy to say my girls are both well – they are already confident, strong, independent women who know what they want and exactly how to get it…

They are 2½ and 7 months old respectively.”

It’s now 3am, THE MUMMY of mummyjobs has only 1 more sleep until the launch of mummyjobs.co.uk as well as that very early meeting with the kids. Her last bottle of Malbec has just dripped its last drop – it must be time for bed.

Good Night.